Almost all of the agency’s funding comes from donations from countries including the United States, Germany and the European Union, but it has struggled financially for years.
UNRWA entered 2023 with a debt of $75 million and has asked donors for $1.6 billion for its annual budget, Ms. Touma said. But she had received less than half at the start of the war. Today he is asking for an additional $481 million, mainly for Gaza.
As the war rages, most of the agency’s services are suspended and focus on emergency aid. More than half of Gaza’s population has been displaced by the Israeli air campaign, and Israel has imposed a strict blockade, promising not to allow food, water or fuel into the territory. In recent weeks, only a small number of humanitarian trucks have entered Gaza via the Egyptian border.
The agency’s schools are closed and many are now among more than 150 UNRWA facilities housing 730,000 people, the agency says.
Instead of running 14 food distribution centers, the agency supplies flour and fuel to bakeries, where Gazans often queue for hours to get bread.
The killings and displacements of UNRWA staff and its inability to replenish supplies have significantly limited its work, Ms. Touma said.
“We have seen in this war that food, water and fuel are used as weapons of war,” she said.
It is too early to say how the war will end and who will ultimately administer Gaza. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken has suggested that the territory could eventually be reunified with the Israeli-occupied West Bank and governed by the Palestinian Authority, the internationally recognized representative of the Palestinians.
But on Saturday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country must retain security control over Gaza “as long as necessary” and rejected the possibility of a Palestinian Authority role there.
Until a longer-term deal is reached, UNRWA will likely remain the organization best placed to care for the population, experts say, even though the aftermath of war could leave it ill-equipped to do it.
“The scale of this situation is really unlike anything we’ve seen,” said Anne Irfanlecturer at University College London and author of a recent book book on UNRWA, referring to the Israeli bombardment of Gaza. “It’s really difficult to see where we go from here unless some really significant resources are channeled to UNRWA. »